Age, Gender and Diversity

UNHCR Age, Gender and Diversity Policy: Working with people and communities for equality and protection

Each person is unique. The differences between people, whether actual or perceived, can be defining characteristics that play a central role in determining an individual’s opportunities, capacities, needs and vulnerability. UNHCR seeks to ensure that all persons of concern enjoy their rights on an equal footing and are able to participate fully in the decisions that affect their lives and the lives of their family members and communities. This is achieved through the systematic application of an Age, Gender and Diversity (AGD) approach in our operations worldwide including in Rwanda.

What is AGD?

AGE refers to the different stages in one’s life cycle. It is important to be aware of where people are in their life cycle as their capacities and needs change over time. Age influences, and can enhance or diminish, a person’s capacity to exercise his or her rights

GENDER refers to the socially constructed roles for women and men, which are often central to the way in which people define themselves and are defined by others. Gender roles are learned, changeable over time, and variable within and between cultures. Gender often defines the duties, responsibilities, constraints, opportunities and privileges of women and men in any context. Gender equality refers to the equal enjoyment of rights, responsibilities and opportunities of women, men, girls and boys. Gender equality implies that the interests, needs and priorities of each gender are respected.

DIVERSITY refers to different values, attitudes, cultural perspectives, beliefs, ethnic background, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, health, social status, skill and other specific personal characteristics. While the age and gender dimensions are present in everyone, other characteristics vary from person to person. These differences must be recognized, understood and valued by UNHCR in each specific context and operation in order to ensure protection for all people.

By analysing AGD dimensions as interlinked personal characteristics, we can better understand the protection risks and capacities of individuals and communities, and to address and support these more effectively. By promoting respect for differences as an enriching element of any community, we promote progress toward a situation of full equality. Equality means respect for all. It includes the promotion of equal opportunities for people with different needs and abilities and direct, measurable actions to combat inequality and discrimination.

To this end, UNHCR in Rwanda engages in different methodologies to understand the full complexity and diversity of the refugee population, to empower capacities and help those with specific needs with tailored support, and to build up community systems so refugees can support each other and live more independently.

Core Commitments of UNHCR

UNHCR acknowledges and reaffirms that the complete realization of gender equality is an inalienable and indivisible feature of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. The systematic promotion of this principle in measurable results is essential to ensuring protection and durable solutions for women and men of all ages and backgrounds served by the Organisation.2

UNHCR is deeply committed to ensuring that refugees, stateless and displaced people have equal access to their rights, protection, services and resources, and are able to participate as active partners in the decisions that affect them. To this end, UNHCR has committed to mainstreaming an Age, Gender and Diversity (AGD) approach. AGD is a human-rights and community-based approach. Mainstreaming AGD means to plan, programme, implement, monitor and evaluate operations, keeping in mind equality and full participation as guiding principles.

Working in partnership with people of concern and other stakeholders, UNHCR is committed to ensuring that safeguards are in place to prevent any action from inadvertently increasing marginalization, vulnerability, exclusion and stigmatization that may put some people/groups at further risk.

UNHCR is also committed to advocating for the implementation of an AGD approach by other intergovernmental, governmental and non-governmental entities working with refugees, stateless and displaced persons.

Main elements for mainstreaming an Age, Gender and Diversity approach

Working in partnership with persons of concern: Working to ensure equality, putting people at the centre of decision making as well as supporting their capacities and efforts to have their rights recognized and accessible, together serve to promote the role of women and men of all ages and backgrounds as agents of positive social change in their own families and communities.

Accountability: All staff are expected to understand and integrate age, gender and diversity sensitive work practices. Senior managers ensure that this policy is translated into action in all phases of UNHCR’s operation cycle. They are accountable to the High Commissioner for successful integration of age, gender and diversity considerations into their work and the work of their teams.

Results based management: Targeted actions to advance gender equality and support individual and community capacities to address protection risks and gaps need to be visible, appropriately resourced and measurable in all Country Operation Plans. UNHCR’s results-based management tool, Focus, provides timely information to senior managers in respect of the AGD-sensitivity of operations enabling them to make strategic decisions. This ensures that the emphasis remains on results as opposed to processes alone.

Capacity development: Developing and strengthening staff capacity and competency in age, gender and diversity analysis is essential. UNHCR is committed to addressing gaps in this regard on a continuous basis through the provision of additional guidance and the development of new learning opportunities for staff at all levels.

Human and financial resources: Adequate human and financial resources are allocated to the implementation of age, gender and diversity mainstreaming to achieve desired outcomes. This entails better utilization of current resources, the assignment of additional resources where required and the alignment of resources with expected outcomes.

Oversight through monitoring, evaluation, audit and reporting: Enhancing oversight is critical to ensuring accountability of all UNHCR staff for their performance in age, gender and diversity mainstreaming. UNHCR has developed an accountability framework which is prepared by Representatives of each operation annually.